The Betahan | Every good superhero movie started with an origin story. Obviously, I am no superhero, but this is my origin story.
I was born in the island of Negros in the Visayas to parents who are both teachers at the time. Home to this island is a city, and in the outskirts of the city, is a huge hacienda called Faraon. The best memories of my childhood literally happened here but that’s an entirely different and a way longer story.
So, there I was, in the 90s, during my early childhood, not a care in the world.
There Was an Idea…
Our family was one of the few ones in the area who could afford a TV set at the time. I don’t know where they got the idea, but one of my uncles turned a good portion of the family property into a make-shift theater, a cinema of some sorts. Airing movies on almost a daily basis.
The movie house was equipped with one of Sony’s 21” color TV models, a not-so-bad sound system, and the pioneering “Betamax” player. The seats were made of slabs cut from a variety of local trees like santol, langka, among many others. The farther the row of seats are from the TV, the higher they are raised.
Just like a typical movie theater!
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the “Betahan”, the 21-inch localized version of a “sinehan” (cinema).
Every day, either my uncle or my late grandfather would go to this local Betamax tape rental store to check out the latest films available. They have also sorted out the tapes by genre. Pretty much like how you can sort the library of films and TV series on Netflix and most streaming sites.
The Movie Experience
There are two screening schedules daily. The first movie is shown at 1PM and another one at 7PM but the betahan is open as early as 30 minutes before the screening time for the previews. The previews are mostly Michael Jordan highlights, Bon Jovi concerts, and a short preview of the other films in the queue. This is the betahan equivalent of a trailer.
By 1PM or 7PM, the movie starts with around 30 or so people inside. There is no AC, as you would expect, but a big santol tree is more than enough to extinguish the heat. And oh, my late grandmother also used to run a small tindahan. Refreshments are available in the tindahan for those who love snacking while watching. Popcorn was not available, though.
This is where I first experienced watching a full-length movie.
For years, the betahan became the center of leisure and entertainment for the people in the hacienda. A few years later, VHS took over Betamax. The betahan followed the switch to VHS but the name stuck even when the betahan was already showing movies in VCD and later DVD formats. Then again, VHS-an, VCD-han or DVD-han, wouldn’t sound as catchy as the immortal “betahan”.
Nothing Lasts Forever
VCD and DVD players became a huge hit in the early 2000s. Other brands moved with the trend and fierce competition gave way to steep price drops for VCD and DVD players. The same downtrend happened with TV sets.
Consequently, most of the people in the hacienda can now afford to own a TV + VCD/DVD set. There is not much of a need for the betahan anymore. Inevitably, the betahan closed.
The betahan introduced me to several beloved movie characters in every genre. FPJ against Max Alvarado and his goons action scenes were iconic. Stallone’s Rambo and Arnold’s terminator were bad-ass. Luke, Han, and Leia’s intergalactic three-part saga were out of this world. And countless many other characters. All of which I met in the betahan.
Fast forward many years later, and my love for watching movies only grew ever stronger. Yes, I can now afford to watch a movie in a real theater every so often. But it all started with the betahan for me.
How about you? What’s your origin story? Send us an email or post it below in the comments